A big gun control win in California, and a shooting involving youths

Three variations of the AR-15 assault rifle are displayed.
Three variations of the AR-15 assault rifle are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento.
(Associated Press)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Dec. 1. I’m Justin Ray.

Gun control advocates scored a big win Tuesday when a federal appeals court decided to uphold California’s ban on large-scale ammunition magazines. The ruling is likely to lead to the court’s approval of the state’s ban on assault weapons.

In the 7-4 decision, U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reasoned that “the record demonstrates that the limitation interferes only minimally with the core right of self-defense, as there is no evidence that anyone ever has been unable to defend his or her home and family due to the lack of a large-capacity magazine; and ... that the limitation saves lives,” according to The Associated Press.

During the past 50 years, the court said, large-capacity magazines have been used in about three-quarters of mass shootings that resulted in 10 or more deaths, and in 100% of massacres with 20 or more deaths.


Gunowners’ rights groups reportedly plan to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Michigan shooting, and gun crimes involving youths

The ruling came the same day as a shooting in Michigan. A 15-year-old sophomore shot eight students—three fatally, according to Deadline Detroit.

Deputies arrested the teen suspect without a struggle, according to the outlet. He fired 15 to 20 shots from a semiautomatic handgun that he reloaded during his five-minute assault. The alleged shooter requested a lawyer and declined to speak with investigators, the outlet reported, citing Undersheriff Mike McCabe.

Gun violence is killing an increasing number of American children, according to an October AP report. “Shootings involving children and teenagers have been on the rise in recent years, and 2021 is no exception. Experts say idleness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic shares the blame with easy access to guns and disputes that too often end with gunfire.”

There were 991 gun violence deaths among people 17 or younger in 2019 in the U.S., according to Gun Violence Archive, a site that tracks shootings across the country. That number spiked to 1,375 in 2020, and this year is worse. Through Tuesday, shootings had claimed 1,392 young lives and left 3,814 injured.

The database includes a recent Los Angeles County incident: A father shot and killed his four children and their grandmother in Lancaster last weekend, authorities said.

A body is loaded onto a coroner's truck in front of a home on Garnet Lane in Lancaster.
A body is loaded onto a coroner’s truck in front of a Lancaster home where a woman and four children were shot and killed.
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said this week that his department will no longer use the county’s coronavirus testing provider over concerns about the company’s alleged ties to the Chinese government. In a letter to the Board of Supervisors, Villanueva said the FBI contacted him last week and held a briefing the day after Thanksgiving to relay “the serious risks associated with allowing Fulgent to conduct COVID-19 testing” of county employees. Villanueva said that the DNA data obtained are “not guaranteed to be safe and secure from foreign governments.” An FBI spokesperson declined to comment when asked to confirm what was discussed at the meeting. The county’s contract with Fulgent prohibits the disclosure of data collected without the county’s written permission and requires that the company store and process data in the continental United States, the county said in a statement. Los Angeles Times

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With California on the verge of allowing multi-unit housing in neighborhoods previously reserved for single-family homes, some cities are rushing to pass restrictions on the new developments. Senate Bill 9, which takes effect Jan. 1, requires communities across California to allow duplexes, and in some cases four units, in most single-family home neighborhoods. The law’s passage this summer came after years of debate over how to address a shortage of available homes at the root of the state’s housing affordability problems. Opponents of the new law contend that the housing will change the character of neighborhoods and increase traffic. Los Angeles Times

Katherine Guevara and David Guevara Rosillo check out to a rental unit under construction
Katherine Guevara and David Guevara Rosillo check out an accessory dwelling unit being built on their property in the West Adams area of Los Angeles in February.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)


Scott Peterson has been transferred from death row at San Quentin Prison to the San Mateo County jail in advance of his resentencing hearing next week. Peterson, 49, is being held at the jail without bail for his 2004 convictions for the murders of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner. At the time, he was sentenced to death, but the California Supreme Court overturned the sentence last year. Family and friends of Laci are expected to give victim impact statements at a Dec. 8 hearing, facing him for the first time since he was sentenced more than 17 years ago. Modesto Bee

Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the blood testing start-up Theranos, testified with tears in her eyes that former company President Sunny Balwani belittled her, controlled her diet, and forced her to have sex when she displeased him. “He would get very angry with me and then he would sometimes come upstairs to our bedroom and he would force me to have sex with him when I didn’t want to,” Holmes testified. She is accused of defrauding investors and patients. In court filings, her lawyers had previously accused Balwani — her romantic partner for more than a decade — of abusing, controlling and coercing her in ways that would affect the issue of her guilt. Her lawyers have indicated that they may call to the witness stand a psychologist who specializes in relationship violence and has evaluated Holmes. If found guilty, she faces up to 20 years in prison and a $3-million fine. Mercury News

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Snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada could disappear in just 25 years. As the climate warms, more and more of the snow falling on California’s mountains will be replaced by rain. Scientists and water managers say that at some point California’s snowpack could simply disappear. This would mean the state would be without the crucial spring and summer melt-off that fills rivers and streams, nourishes plants and animals, and provides a huge chunk of the water supply. “It’s hard to picture: thinking about a future where our kids and grandkids have little or no snow and what that means for our water resource,” said Erica Siirila-Woodburn, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley Lab. San Francisco Chronicle

Toxic sites in California are at risk of flooding from sea level rise. When Lucas Zucker talks about sea level rise in California, his first thoughts aren’t about waves crashing onto fancy homes in Orange County. What worries him most are the three power plants looming over the Oxnard coast, and the toxic waste site that has languished there for decades. There are also two naval bases, unknown military dumps and a smog-spewing port. Just one flood could unleash a flow of industrial chemicals and overwhelm his working-class, mostly Latino community. A new statewide mapping project led by environmental health professors at UC Berkeley and UCLA dubbed Toxic Tides is the first systematic look at the environmental justice ramifications of sea level rise and hazardous sites along the entire coast of California. Los Angeles Times


Burial of the unclaimed dead. As we have reported before, Los Angeles County officials hold on to the cremains of unclaimed individuals for three years, waiting for someone to claim them and reimburse the county for its services. If the ashes are not picked up, the county buries them together in a single pauper’s grave. This year’s public event (taking place today) will honor 1,780 individuals who passed away in 2018. Facebook


Rare, deep-sea fish washes ashore at San Diego beach. Jay Beiler says he was walking on Black’s Beach in Torrey Pines nearly two weeks ago when he spotted something scary looking. He initially thought it was a jellyfish from a distance, but as Beiler got closer, he noticed it was something far stranger. It was the Pacific Footballfish, scientifically known as Himantolophus sagamius. According to experts, it usually lives in waters that are 3,000 feet deep. 10 News

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Los Angeles: 79 San Diego: 72 San Francisco: Here’s a cute puppy. 69 San Jose: 75 Fresno: 72 Sacramento: 67


Today’s California memory is from Rita Bullinger:

During my nontraditional work period in the early ‘80s, I drove a truck for the San Francisco Chronicle/Examiner. I would get a call at 2 a.m., drive down to Mission Street to load papers into the rattly (what I called a) “milk truck,” and drop papers in the city’s various neighborhoods. One early morning well before dawn, after I’d finished making all my drops in North Beach, I drove up near Coit Tower and then down a narrow street, just exploring the area since my run was complete, and it was too early to call in for the missed papers’ report. Suddenly I found myself at the base of the Bay Bridge. A full moon hung huge and pale above the Bridge’s majestic span. At four in the morning the city barely breathed behind me. I got out of the truck and just stood willing the image onto my mind’s eye, knowing I was witnessing a rare and temporal sight. I’ve never forgotten it.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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